The Revolution was disappointed with the last issue of Justice League of America. McDuffie gave us a rather generic and anti-climactic ending to his debut story arc. Justice League of America #16 is an important issue for McDuffie. He has to demonstrate to the reader that he has something of substance planned for this title. Let’s go ahead and do this review.
Writer: Dwayne McDuffie
Pencils: Joe Benitez
Inks: Victor Llamas
Art Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 3 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 4.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin with two crooks breaking into a storage unit. They root through the boxes looking for something of value to steal. One of the thieves spies a green paper lantern. The thief holds it and is suddenly engulfed in green flames. We then see the Atom from the Tangent Earth, Earth-9, standing where the thief was standing.
We cut to John Stewart at the Hall of Justice. We see that Red Tornado’s body was too badly damaged for him to be returned to it. So Reddy’s AI was downloaded to the JLA’s computer. This was done after Batman refused to let Reddy get downloaded to his Batcomputer complaining about possible viruses. However, Batman is working with Dr. Magnus to build Red Tornado a new body. Reddy then alerts John to a police report that requires their investigation.
We shift to John Stewart, Black Canary and Red Arrow arriving at the storage unit. The police fill them in on the fact that one of the thieves transformed into a metahuman. And that the initial responding officer has gone missing. The police then reveal that the storage unit belongs to Guy Gardner.
John Stewart contacts Guy via his power ring. Guy is busy fighting a space monster and tells John that he will call him back and then hangs up on John. John is shocked, shocked I say, that Guy would hang up on him.
Black Canary and Red Arrow then cross paths with the Atom. The Atom phases Black Canary through the floor and all the way to the basement. Red Arrow and Atom then start brawling. Red Arrow shows off his Kung Fu as he gets ready to kick ass on the Atom.
John then goes and unlocks the door to the storage unit in the basement that Black Canary is stuck in. Black Canary then uses John’s power ring to contact Guy. Black Canary cracks the whip and Guy doesn’t hang up on her. Guy tells them that the green paper lantern was given to him by Kyle. Guy says that it is some transdimensional item. Black Canary informs Guy that the JLA will keep it at the Hall of Justice until Kyle comes back for it.
Black Canary and John then meet up with Red Arrow who is standing over Atom’s unconscious body. John says that the lantern is a portal to another reality. That it swapped the burglar from their world for a super hero from Earth-9. John then uses his power ring to swap them back.
We see the two thieves being taken away by the police. We then see the Flash from Earth-9 standing on a rooftop watching the scene. She thinks how the policewoman who was the initial responding officer was taken to her dimension by the lantern while Flash was brought to this dimension. The girl says “My name? They call me Flash. And I’m afraid my adventure is just beginning…” End of issue.
The Good: Justice League of America #16 was a very disappointing read. But, I have to satisfy The Revolution’s Rule of Positivity, so let’s dwell on some of the enjoyable aspects of this issue.
I continue to be impressed with McDuffie’s handling of Batman’s character. Yeah, I know that Batman doesn’t appear in this issue, but McDuffie is able to use the scene with John Stewart and Red Tornado to further establish Batman’s reputation and image. I like that Batman refuses to load Reddy onto the Batcomputer. Yet, he is busy working with Dr. Magnus to build Reddy a new body.
McDuffie is doing a great job balancing Batman’s hard-assed tendencies with his willingness to do anything for a teammate. Writers struggle to find the right balance to Batman’s personality. Some writers make Batman a pussy like James Robinson did when we got a touchy feely Batman. Others go too far the other way like Frank Miller does in All Star Batman. I feel that McDuffie has given Batman just the proper amount of dickish attitude without him coming across as a raging asshole.
I love how McDuffie writes Red Arrow in this issue. Red Arrow comes across pretty bad-assed in his scene with the Atom. I like that McDuffie is giving Roy some edge to his personality and an appropriate cocky attitude.
Benitez and Llamas provide for some solid artwork. It is certainly Image style artwork, but it succeeds in giving this issue a dynamic look. I also enjoy the amount of detail that Benitez gives the reader.
The Bad: Justice League of America #16 was pure filler. This was nothing but fluff from start to finish. This issue was a rather dull read. The pacing was slow and the story had a disjointed flow. Justice League of America #16 failed to provide the reader with quality action scenes or well crated dramatic scenes. For some bizarre reason, McDuffie chose to show the reader John unlocking the door of the storage unit holding Black Canary and Black Canary talking with Guy rather than showing us Red Arrow in action kicking ass on the Atom. Why the big fight of the issue would be handled off panel made absolutely no sense to me.
The dialogue in Justice League of America #16 was pedestrian at best and cheesy at worst. Some of the “humor” in this issue came across like what you would get in a Saturday morning cartoon. I felt like there was supposed to be a laugh track running when Guy hung up on the phone with John as Benitez has John mug to the camera. Honestly, it is Guy Gardner. He has never been confused with a conversationalist. His hanging up on John because he was busy was totally in character and John would never have even thought twice about it.
The dialogue reads like a journeyman effort on part of McDuffie. It isn’t downright cringe inducing, but it certainly isn’t anything above average. The reader gets the feeling that we have read this unoriginal dialogue a million times before.
Also, it is alarming the complete and total lack of any character development during McDuffie’s run. The various members of the JLA are still just caricatures rather than fully developed characters. None of the members have much of a unique or textured personality. And the fact that all the members have the depth of cardboard cut outs, that translates into a total lack of chemistry between the characters.
Red Tornado is an extreme example of the lack of character development. In Reddy’s case, his character has actually horribly regressed since McDuffie took over. Meltzer managed to impressively flesh out Reddy’s personality and evolve his character. McDuffie, in short order has returned Reddy back to his bland android personality and reduced him from a man struggling with his humanity into just a talking computer for the JLA.
Also alarming is the lack of many complex and intriguing plotlines during McDuffie’s run on this title. Meltzer managed to craft numerous detailed and interesting plotlines at the same time during his run on this title. McDuffie hasn’t shown the reader that he has any long term plans at all for this title. McDuffie has taken a title that was thick with numerous detailed plotlines and reduced it to a rather shallow title.
And the ending to this issue did absolutely nothing for me. First, isn’t this perky little Flash from Earth-9 dead? Didn’t she get killed by the evil Johnny Quick in Countdown: Arena #3. That, by the way, was probably the first death during this Countdown event that I actually rooted for. If she is actually dead in Countdown: Arena #3 then adding her to the story in this issue made no sense at all.
Now, if Flash somehow managed to survive the fight in Countdown: Arena #3 then I could still care less about her insertion to the end of this issue. The solicits for JLA #17-19 on DC’s website don’t mention anything having to do with this Flash at all. So, I have to presume that this issue was just a lead in for a story that is to take place on another title. That is terrible. I hate it when plotlines are introduced in one title for the purpose of being further explored in an unrelated title. Plus, after just reading about this Flash in Countdown: Arena #3 and in Justice League of America #16, she already irritates the hell out of me.
Now, even though I mentioned that Benitez’s artwork is solid and gets the job done, it still has its faults. Since Benitez employs an Image Comics style of artwork this means that everyone looks like they are eternally constipated. All the characters constantly grimace or grit their teeth angrily. And also, like all Image Comics style artwork, the ability to draw feet it totally unnecessary.
Overall: Justice League of America #16 was a dull read. McDuffie has failed to impress me with his run on this title. For my tastes, Justice League of America has rapidly declined in terms of the quality of writing since McDuffie took over for Meltzer. However, this title isn’t unreadable. So, if you are a big McDuffie fan or a die-hard JLA fan then you will probably enjoy this title. However, I cannot recommend this title to any other fans other than those two aforementioned groups. There are simply too many other well written titles on the market that are far more worth your hard earned money than Justice League of America.